The Q&A Archives: When To Start Asparagus

Question: I am an avid vegetable gardener but have never tried to grow asparagus. When do you start plants? Do I start with seed or crowns? I make my own soil with equal parts of chicken manure, goat manure and 30 year old sawdust. I add lime to that an it works great for nearly everything with no commercial fertilizer. Will this mixtrue be good for asparagus?

Answer: It is possible to grow asparagus from seed, but it is
quicker to purchase asparagus crowns. The crowns are
usually sold in bundles of a dozen or so and look quite dead
at the time of purchase. A crown is a bare root asparagus
plant, and consists of stringy roots which radiate outward
from a pointed growing tip. (The bundles are tied with the
tip up and roots dangling downward; you will plant them
with the tip facing up.) They are available at garden centers
or by mail order for early spring planting which is the best time to plant them.

Asparagus needs plenty of sun and very rich, well drained
soil with pH near 6.5 and an ample amount of organic material worked in
prior to planting. Your mixture sounds good, although if your native soil is heavy you might also add a bit of sand to ensure good drainage. This is important because the asparagus
bed is a long term planting which will last for many years if
done right at the outset. The plants should be spaced about
eighteen inches apart in rows about four feet apart. The
mature plants are quite large!

Ideally asparagus is planted in very early spring. First
prepare the ground as deeply as practical, because the roots
can reach five feet deep. Then dig a trench about a foot
deep and wide enough to accomodate the crowns without
crowding. Work in several inches of organic matter (and sand if needed) such as
compost or well rotted manure at the bottom of the trench,
then plant the crowns. Cover them with a few inches of soil
mixed with organic matter and water well. As the plants
grow, continue adding layers of amended soil until the trench
is filled in. Be sure to keep the asparagus bed well weeded
and water regularly if needed during the summer. A mulch to keep down weeds is usually a good idea, too.

Generally it is a good idea to let the new plants grow and
become established for the first year, thus delaying any
harvest until the next year. When you do begin to harvest,
cut only those spears larger in diameter than a pencil.

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